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Trailering: Research, Tips and Tricks

A Hart Trailer about the hit the road.

On one of my recent podcasts I talked about research that discussed the length of time in a trailer and how long it took for horses to recover from those trailer rides.

I glossed over it rather quickly, but many of you have reached out for more clarification and discussion around the topic so I thought I could provide you guys with some great information now that show season is back up and running, and we are hauling our horses again.

Here is some great insight directly from researchers at UC Davis:

  • Journeys of 3 hours or less than 500 miles are unlikely to be associated with transport-related diseases, dehydration or fatigue due to energy expenditure and reduced feed intake. Road transport time per day should not exceed 12 hours from the time the first horse is loaded on the vehicle. After 12 hours of transport, horses should be removed from the vehicle and comfortably stabled for at least 8 hours. This time period is necessary for tracheal clearance and rehydration.

  • For road journeys of 6 to 12 hours, a one-day rest period is likely to be sufficient. When horses travel longer than 12 hours by road or are transported by plane, a recovery period of 2 to 3 days should be planned.

  • Research at UC Davis in horses transported 24 hours by road in a commercial van has shown that physiological parameters, especially white blood cells, take 24 hours to return to normal levels for horses transported in box stalls and an additional day for horses cross-tied during the trip.

The full article, which has a ton of great info around this subject can be found here:

Now, I know many of you are thinking that 2 full days of rest after a journey longer than 12 hours while tied is not always possible but I think it's really great food for thought for many of us, myself included at times, that have thrown our horses in the trailer and simply thought they would come off the trailer on the other side ready to go. Our performance horses are athletes, and they do require recovery, the same as a human athlete.

Here's some valuable rules of thumb:

  • Allow your horse to trailer so that they can feed below chest level to decrease chances of respiratory disease, like shipping fever. Otherwise provide routine food and water when stopped.

  • There are boots that help reduce concussive force, my two favourites are Soft-Ride Equine Comfort Boots and EasyCare Cloud Boots. These do need to be sized to your horses feet, they are not one size fits all.

  • Wrapping the legs in either shipping boots, pillow wraps with standings wraps or quick wraps like Back on Track Canada. Wraps can help manage inflammation and protect legs during loading, unloading and hauling. However, ensure you are taking wraps/boots off once a day, monitoring for excessive heat and providing time for the horse's legs to breathe.

  • Don't over blanket, especially in a well-insulated trailer with other horses and take into account any leg protection they may have on. It can get shockingly hot in trailers.

  • Take breaks as you haul, so they get a break from all that balancing they are doing while you are comfortably hanging out in a chair.

  • There are trailer systems that absorb shock, as well as mats or flooring you can purchase that provide more cushion and/or decrease bacteria and dust. You can also put down shavings to ensure your horse isn't slipping in urine but be sure your flooring material, whatever it is, isn't dusty. You can spray the shavings lightly down with water to limit the dust that is in the trailer.

  • Clean out your trailer. Remember bacteria and dust contribute massively to respiratory issues in horses, which have a direct correlation with negative trailering practices.

Plus, this goes without saying, don't believe everything you read on the internet (unless it's from geniuses at UC Davis ) and always ensure everything you are doing, whether trailer, wrapping, feeding, whatever, you are doing safely and under advisement of your veterinarian, trainer, or others with experience and horse-sense.

& if anyone wants to give me a 3 horse gooseneck with LQ, featuring air ride, speciality flooring, cameras in the back, a thermometer system to gauge temperature and all the other bells and whistles... I'm in... I'll post about that trailer all day, everyday.

Have your own tips and tricks? Comment below!

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